OXFORD – Angry residents blasted selectmen Thursday for passing over interim Town Manager Sharon Jackson as town manager, leading one selectman to resign and walk out of the meeting.

Selectman Mike Thompson quit the board and walked out – this time for good, he said – upon hearing residents criticize the board’s decision to pass over Jackson, a 22-year resident and the town’s deputy treasurer and assistant tax collector.

The board chose Michael Chammings, 39, the finance director and administrator for the town of Mount Desert for the past year. Board Chairman Floyd Thayer said the decision was based in part on Chammings’ eight years of previous experience as a town manager in the towns of Tremont and Millbridge.

Chammings will begin his new job Oct. 5, and the appointment will be made official at an Oct. 14 meeting. His salary has been set at $925 a week for the first six months, after which it will be $950 a week, or about $48,000 a year.

Former Town Manager Mike Huston, who left at the end of July, was making $975 a week, or $50,000 a year.

“You’d think we made the wrong decision no matter what we did,” said Thompson, as he angrily gathered his paperwork and stormed out of the meeting room. “I resign. I don’t need this.”

Thompson walked out a few months ago, threatening to resign, but reconsidered and was allowed back on the board. This time, however, the action won’t be reversible, Thayer said after the meeting.

Resident Connie Lyons accused the all-male board of passing over Jackson because they “don’t want a female in a top administrative post.” She said Jackson’s stipend for serving as interim town manager has been less than what Code Enforcement Officer Rodney Smith was paid when he served in the interim post.

Thayer said Jackson and Chammings were the two finalists from a field of six candidates drawn from 30 applications received by the town.

“I know you all think this was an easy decision, but it was not,” he said. “We felt (Chammings) was more qualified.”

Jackson, who was serving in her interim manager role at Thursday’s meeting, sat silently and did not comment or react to the at-times heated exchanges between selectmen and residents.

Vicky Verrill said Jackson knows most residents on a first-name basis and treats everyone with respect. “She spoke up for the townspeople. She checked all the roads. I am truly disappointed she didn’t get the job.”

Archie MacDonald said of Jackson, “That lady there has gone above and beyond all the call of duty” for the town and deserves the job based on merit, if not on prior experience or degrees.

“We want one of us, not someone who will leave in a year and a half,” MacDonald said. “You guys are letting us all down.”

Both previous town managers were from out of town and stayed in the job only for a few years.

Adrien Giroux echoed others’ comments when he said, “For the life of me I can’t understand why you would pick a complete stranger” as town manager. “You missed a great opportunity.”


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